By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: December 20, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.
Several hundred gun rights supporters fill boardroom, foyer as supervisors vote
PRINCE GEORGE – In front of a capacity crowd inside the county boardroom with hundreds of others filling the foyer inside the building leading to the parking lot, Prince George County supervisors unanimously approved a resolution stating they will stand with dozens of other localities as a Second Amendment sanctuary county as local gun owners express concern over proposed firearms legislation that will be considered during next month’s General Assembly session.
Opting to suspend the normal procedure of their meeting as detailed in their bylaws, supervisors brought forth the adoption of their consent agenda first, which is where the sanctuary county resolution was placed for consideration during last Tuesday evening’s regular meeting, which was also the county’s final business meeting of 2019. That resolution, as has been the case in other localities, including neighboring Dinwiddie and Sussex, begins by reciting the Second Amendment as presented in the U.S. Constitution, which states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The county’s resolution transitioned then transitioned to the Commonwealth’s constitution, noting Article 1, Section 13, which reads, “That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state, therefore, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.”
Over an hour before the county’s business meeting was to start, the boardroom was at capacity, with Prince George Police Chief Keith Early and Sheriff H.E. Allin managing flow into and out of the room. (Michael Campbell)
Similar to their counterparts across the state and echoing language in a model resolution drafted by the Virginia Citizen Defense League, a non-profit organization focused on defending gun rights who has led a grassroots campaign to have localities stand as Second Amendment sanctuaries, the county says “certain legislation introduced in the 2019 session of the Virginia General Assembly” and in the current Congressional session “could have the effect of infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms,” adding that Prince George is “concerned about the passage of any bill containing language which unconstitutionally infringes upon the Second Amendment rights” of its residents.
“The Prince George County Board of Supervisors wish to express its intent to stand as a Sanctuary County for Second Amendment rights and to oppose, within the limits of the Constitution of the United States and Commonwealth of Virginia, any efforts to unconstitutionally restrict such rights, and to use such legal means at its disposal to protect the constitutional rights of its citizens to keep and bear arms, including through legal action, the power of appropriation of public funds, and the right to petition for redress of grievances,” the resolution reads.
The passage of the resolution brought about strong applause from the hundreds inside and outside of the county administration building, many wearing orange “Guns Save Lives” stickers, distributed in the lead-up to the meeting, among them Delegate Emily Brewer (R-64), who praised county leaders for their action last week.
“Thank you so much for what you did tonight,” the delegate remarked. “You stood up for the people of Prince George County and more than 70 percent of Virginians so far whose [locality] has taken a stand for the Second Amendment. We thank you for sending a clear directive to go back to the General Assembly this year and address this.”
Brewer continued, “But I want you to know, not just the people in this room, but the people who are standing outside are so proud of you and your leadership and I commend you from the bottom of my heart for what you have done tonight.”
Those sentiments were echoed by resident Carolyn Pruitt, who said she carries a firearm for protection as she regularly travels to Richmond alone for work. In her comments, the Prince George resident said she is concerned forthcoming bills could limit of gun owners and, through the proposals, assume some law-abiding owners will commit crimes with their weapons.
“The bills currently proposed in the General Assembly seek to limit [the right to keep and bear arms],” she said. “I was asked recently by a citizen why a citizen should be able to own assault rifles. My reply to that questioning is, ‘Why shouldn’t citizens be able to own assault rifles?’ Assuming that they shouldn’t be allowed to an AR-15 or an AK-47 is assuming that they will commit a crime with that gun. In America, we are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. These measures assume guilt, punishing innocent citizens for crimes they haven’t committed.”
Hundreds of people supporting the Second Amendment filled the Prince George County county administration building’s boardroom and foyers as supervisors unanimously passed a resolution declaring the county a Second Amendment sanctuary locality. (Michael Campbell)
“Infringing on our God-given Second Amendment right is immoral. Taking away my ability to defend myself is immoral. Forcing our fellow citizens in law enforcement to trample the rights of their neighbors in immoral,” Pruitt closed.
One piece of language that was absent from the county’s resolution but is present in the VCDL’s model resolution was “the power to direct the law enforcement and employees … to not enforce any unconstitutional law,” which was brought up by one of the roughly half-dozen speakers who shared their thoughts on the county’s actions last Tuesday. Without that language, one speaker said the county’s resolution could be seen as “hollow” but, he hoped the county would remain vigilant and review all legislation carefully as it comes through the General Assembly.
For The VCDL, that section is a key part of their definition of what a Second Amendment sanctuary is, defining it on their website as “any locality that says it will not enforce any unconstitutional (federal or state) gun laws,” adding, “Many sheriffs are going to take the County’s lead on this and county police could be told not to enforce such laws either.”
When looking at neighboring localities who took similar Second Amendment sanctuary actions, Dinwiddie County’s adopted resolution does not feature language that would direct “law enforcement and employees … to not enforce any unconstitutional law.” In Surry, their county stopped short of declaring themselves a sanctuary for the Second Amendment, saying it strongly supports the rights of its citizens to bear arms while urging “members of the General Assembly and the Governor to take no action which would violate the freedoms guaranteed in both” the state and U.S. Constitution.
Efforts to review a copy of Sussex County’s resolution were unsuccessful as of this report due to Sussex’s government website being offline but, leader in the county told The Sussex-Surry Dispatch at the time of its late-November passage that their resolution was modeled closely after Dinwiddie County’s version.
While all of the speakers during last week’s meeting expressed support for the Second Amendment, some questioned the ramifications of the county’s action in the eyes of the state government and if it opens the door for legal action.
“I support the Second Amendment,” resident Tammie Miller Jennings shared, noting her family’s history of being avid hunters along with some being members of the U.S. military but, she pointed to the fact that Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, meaning individual localities can only adopt laws on subject matter the state has given them the authority to do so, adding that “sheriff and police departments must uphold state law.”
“Virginia law specifically allows local governments to be sued if they adopt ordinances involving firearms or ammunition that is not expressly authorized by law,” she continued. “With that said, what is Prince George prepared to do? What are you saying you are prepared to do with what you have decided?”
Del. Emily Brewer (R-64) chats with Supervisor Marlene Waymack before the start of last week’s board of supervisors meeting. Brewer would go on to to thank the county’s leadership for naming the county a Second Amendment sanctuary county. (Michael Campbell)
Days after Prince George’s actions to declare itself a Second Amendment sanctuary, Governor Ralph Northam, who has stated he plans to reintroduce a series of legislation aimed at gun violence prevention, including heightened background checks and banning “assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and silencers,” made his first comments on the wave of localities adopting sanctuary resolutions. During a stop in Hampton Roads, the governor said “there is not going to be retaliation” directed toward localities who adopt these or similar resolutions but, he said there could be “consequences” if the state’s laws are not enforced by law enforcement agencies.
“If we have constitutional laws on the books and law enforcement officers are not enforcing those laws, there are going to be some consequences but, I will cross that bridge if and when we get to it,” Northam told the media last week. The governor did not detail specific “consequences” during his comments.
“They can continue to have their meetings. They can continue to make sanctuary counties but, we are going to do what Virginians have asked us to do,” Northam continued, adding, “We are not going to take people’s guns away.”
As uncertainty remains in regards to the governor’s allusion to “consequences” if the state’s laws are not enforced, Jennings asked supervisors to detail exactly what the county is willing to do following the passage of its sanctuary resolution.
“What funding do you have that you are willing to defend this,” she asked. “Will this affect our bond rating? These are questions I have because I want to make sure our fiscal responsibilities are met.”
Multiple attempts to contact Donald Hunter, chairman of the Prince George Board of Supervisors for additional comment on the county’s resolution were not returned.
The turnout for Tuesday’s meeting saw the boardroom reach capacity of 140 people by 5:45 p.m., well over an hour before the resolution was scheduled to be heard at 7 p.m., resulting in many standing in the third-floor foyer where they could hear the meeting’s dialogue through speakers. As 7 p.m. approached, several hundred people were reported to have been at the administration building, filling the first-floor entrance and flowing out onto the sidewalk in the parking lot.
According to the VCDL, over 70 counties, cities, and towns have declared themselves as Second Amendment sanctuaries.
Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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